President Obama said Tuesday that the United States is “heartbroken” over the Afghan civilians killed by a U.S. soldier, and takes the deaths as “seriously” as if the victims were our own.
Obama spoke as violence in Afghanistan began to escalate two days after a U.S. soldier killed more than a dozen Afghan civilians in an apparent rogue attack.
“The United States takes this as seriously as if it was our own citizens and our own children who were murdered,” Obama said during brief remarks in the Rose Garden. “We are heartbroken over the loss of innocent life.”
“It’s not who we are as a country, and it does not represent our military,” he said.
Obama, who has faced increasing pressure to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan because of a heightened anti-American sentiment, said the United States has a strategy that will “allow us to responsibly wind down this war.” During his remarks, Obama highlighted the administration’s efforts to remove 23,000 troops by the end of this summer, in addition to the 10,000 troops that withdrew last year.
“We’re steadily transitioning to the Afghans, who are moving into the lead,” the president said. “And that’s going to allow us to bring our troops home.”
At the same time, Obama said, “we will continue the work of devastating al Qaeda’s leadership and denying them a safe haven.”
“There’s no question that we face a difficult challenge in Afghanistan,” he said. “But I am confident that we can continue the work of meeting our objectives, protecting our country and responsibly bringing this war to a close.”
At the daily briefing on Tuesday, after Obama's remarks, White House press secretary Jay Carney said news reports which say that the White House is considering a specific number of troops in Afghanistan to draw-down is "simply false."
"We will continue to withdraw U.S forces," Carney said, adding that "the pace of that withdrawal "has not yet been decided."
"I think it's important to understand that in spite of recent events, the strategy is a broad-based strategy."
This story was updated at 2:25 p.m.